One of the unfortunate parts of being an RA is that I live at my job. During training, I was told numerous times that I live within a fishbowl. No matter where I was, I could be identified as an RA, and because of this I had to be on my best behavior. I was also told that I would be called to action no matter the time. My residents and my boss were able to contact me around the clock and I was expected to respond.
This position is on top of working another job, an internship, devoting myself to clubs and going to school. Most of my life is spent working and for a while, I didn’t mind it. Whenever I experienced crippling burnout I would usually get physically sick. It would give me a day to sleep and take care of myself, and the next day I would get back to work. It was a vicious cycle but I found it to be well worth it. It was the only way that I could possibly get all my work done.
Or so I thought.
Diagnosing the problem
This semester, I found myself really stressed out thanks to grad school decisions coming out. The emotional stress was out of this world. I was less motivated and I was so tired I would sleep when I was supposed to be working. When I woke up I was anxious, disappointed in myself and still unmotivated. Luckily I didn’t fall behind in school work and maintained good grades, but I couldn’t say that I was doing the best that I could. And that bothered me. A lot.
At first, I thought it was senioritis. But, I realized that it was more than that. Eager to fix my sudden lack of motivation, I looked up if other people were experiencing the same thing as I was, and it turns out I have a bad relationship with my work-life balance. According to the Mental Health Foundation, 40 percent of employees neglect other aspects of life and this leads to a decrease in mental health. I’m very lucky not to struggle with mental health on a day-to-day basis. But, I’d be lying if I said that it hasn’t been rough lately.
Although I’m really happy and proud of myself for maintaining good grades and extracurricular activities throughout college, I feel as though my mental health wasn’t worth the sacrifice. In fact, I don’t think the sacrifice was necessary at all. According to a study done by Forbes, people are more likely to be productive if they take breaks. Not taking breaks leads to people working slower and less efficiently. It makes me wonder what would have happened if I decided to go easier on myself and allowed myself to take more breaks — and maybe even a few mental health days. Perhaps I would be even more productive.
Making time for myself
Since realizing that I have a poor work-life balance, I’ve been trying to give myself more breaks. I make sure that after a power hour of homework, I step away from my work. If I start thinking about work, I chide myself and make sure that I focus on having a stress-free, relaxing time. I’m far from perfect but I’ve found myself feeling a lot less anxious.
There are tons of small steps you can take to work toward getting better at separating work from life, no matter your job. If you’re able to, you can set your notifications to “Do Not Disturb” after a certain time so that you’re not being bombarded by emails or Slack notifications while you’re trying to unwind at the end of the day. The pandemic has made stepping away from your desk harder for those of you who are working remotely, but when it’s time for you to log off, log off completely — sign out so that you’re not stressing about work whenever you’re not on the clock. It can make a world of difference in your mindset, and will allow you to actually relax, instead of always having your deadlines floating in the back of your mind.
No job is worth your mental health. It took me a while but I finally feel as though I’m no longer burdened by work but, rather empowered to get things done. A good work balance means that I can follow the age-old saying, “Work hard, play hard.” I feel like I can devote a lot more energy into my work because I know that there’s a break in the future. I also know that I should actually take time to relax because I know I put my all into work. Because of this, I’m a lot less stressed than I’ve ever been despite having more work. I have a long way to go but, I’m happy that I decided to fix my relationship with my work-life balance.